Hugh Jackman and the cast of ‘The Son’ on family dynamics, mental health

Rekha Garton. ©See-Saw Films Limited. Courtesy of See-Saw Films / Sony Pictures Classics

First came The Father, now comes The Son from writer-director Florian Zeller — the second film based on his trilogy of plays with Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby and Hugh Jackman. Jackman plays a workaholic father struggling with his deeply depressed son, looking to prevent the mistakes of his own upbringing.

“One of the beautiful things about this story is how hard it is to be objective, particularly with your own children,” Jackman tells ABC Audio. “Being able to be present is so much easier when it’s someone else’s kid, but when it’s your own, you’re so clouded in your own fears and worries and also not knowing what to do.”

It’s a personal role for Jackman, with its themes of fatherhood hitting close to home when the X-Men star’s father passed away during production. But Jackman pressed on, his father’s death adding more weight to his approach of the character.

“It was very difficult … shooting some of the very heavy scenes. I remember feeling his presence,” Jackman says. “I was a bit of a hot mess, I’ll admit, during this but I guess that’s what the character was going through, too.”

The Son explores mental illness and what happens to those in the middle of it all. “Everyone has this story somewhere. This story of a mental health journey. The pain of grief,” says Dern, who plays Jackman’s ex-wife.

Both she and co-star Kirby hope The Son inspires more dialogue on the topic.

“Don’t be afraid to look at the dark things inside yourself and be brave … so that you can begin to talk about them, heal them, share them,” Kirby says.

The Son opens in wide release Friday, January 20.

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